The food safety watchdog has pledged a relentless investigation into allegations of horse meat being passed off as beef in the UK after two British plants were raided and shut down as part of the inquiry into the scandal.
Andrew Rhodes, Food Standards Agency (FSA) director of operations, said they would keep pursuing an investigation into a slaughterhouse in West Yorkshire and a meat processing plant in West Wales until there is “nothing left to find” after discovering evidence of apparent “blatant misleading of consumers”.
“Our investigations have determined that we found horse meat that was produced at the plant in West Yorkshire being sent to a location in West Wales, a business called Farmbox,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“We entered that premises yesterday, FSA enforcement officers entered that premises, following up on the evidence that we found and we spoke to the staff there and we seized product and we found that horse meat had been used as though it were beef in kebabs and burgers at that premises.”
His remarks were made after Peter Boddy slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, and meat processing plant Farmbox Meats at Llandre in Aberystwyth, West Wales, had records seized and were temporarily shut down pending the outcome of investigations into claims they supplied and used horse carcasses in burgers and kebabs.
The FSA said it had “detained” all meat found at the premises and seized paperwork and customer lists from the two companies.
Asked if he was alleging that horse meat was passed off as beef, Mr Rhodes said: “That is absolutely right, yes.
“The Food Standards Agency is a science and evidence-led organisation and we don’t do things lightly. We have very good evidence to support the actions that we have taken.
“Indeed we interviewed people on that site near Aberystwyth yesterday and those people confirmed that they received the goods that we believed they received and they told us what they had done with them.
“We are very clear on what has happened there.
“That is why we have seized all the meat that is there, that is why we have seized all the paperwork and that is why we involved the police both in Dyfed Powys and also in West Yorkshire.”
Asked if he believed that meat purporting to be beef had reached retailers and therefore had been sold to consumers, Mr Rhodes said: “I think we have to use our language carefully.
“When we talk about retailers, people typically think about supermarkets. We don’t have evidence of that at the moment, we also don’t have evidence that this is being used in mass production.”
He said five slaughterhouses in the UK process horses on a regular basis. “What we have been doing is investigating the trail from all of them,” he said.
“As I say, the majority of everything we have found has been completely in order as we would expect it to be.
“We have got one particular business where we had some suspicions from the evidence we uncovered which we followed through and that led us to the investigations that we carried out near Aberystwyth yesterday.
“We will continue with that investigation and we will keep pursuing this until there is nothing left to find.”